A long-planned program to remove police from some 911 calls launched as Denver’s streets erupted in police brutality protests

The timing was a coincidence, but the stakes have never been higher.

The Support Team Assisted Response van. June 8, 2020.
The Support Team Assisted Response van. June 8, 2020. (Photo Credit: Kevin J. Beaty, Denverite)

Roshan Bliss has been trying to find ways to curb police violence for years and scored a major victory at the beginning of the month, just as Denver started protesting racism and police brutality.

Bliss, a volunteer and co-chair of the Denver Justice Project, helped shepherd a pilot project into existence that’s now diverting some 911 calls away from armed officers to an unassuming van manned by a Denver Health paramedic and a social worker from the Mental Health Center of Denver. It’s called Support Team Assisted Response, or STAR, and the idea is to send more appropriate responses to 911 calls that have to do with substance abuse, mental health crises or people who just need help connecting to services. A grant from the Caring 4 Denver fund, which voters approved in 2019, has given STAR at least six months to prove it can be effective.

STAR is one way to “dismantle policing,” Bliss says, an idea that’s become talked about widely and loudly during protests reacting to the killing of George Floyd. The pilot program coincidentally began while massive actions against police brutality entered their fifth consecutive day in Denver.

Read more of this story at Denverite.

Kevin Beaty is a visual journalist for Denverite. Staunch creative and engineer of .gifs, photos, video, illustrations and sometimes words. Find him on Twitter and Instagram at @kevinjbeaty.